May her memory be eternal.
In response to a request by our church president, Mrs Anastasia Hewson, I am writing this on behalf of the church.
With a bleeding heart we received the news of the repose of our dear friend and loved member of our community, Vassoulla. She and her husband Elias were among the founders of our church and we will find it difficult to envisage the church without her. Vasoulla’s impact on our church in Reading is woven into every aspect of its history.
In 1977 Mr Kosma Joseph approached Archbishop Athenagoras with the possibility of establishing an Orthodox Church in Reading. With the support and effort of the Greek and Cypriot communities living in the area (Maidenhead, Marlow, Slough, Windsor, Wokingham, and Reading), the wish was granted. Bishop Christophoros named the church St Elias the Prophet, and the first annual general meeting was held in June 1981. The Parikos family were firm drivers in these early days.
We moved to Reading in 1985 and, as practising members of church life, we were delighted to know that there was a Greek Orthodox Church here. The welcome we got from the founding members was incredible and never to be forgotten. The smiles and hugs we got from everyone, including Elias and dear Vasoulla, made us feel at home. Elias invited me to join him and Mr Ninos Papandreou (later Father Anthimos) in singing during the liturgy and Vasoulla encouraged me to do so.
The Ladies Committee was founded in those early days and was called St Katerina’s Auxiliary Association in 1994 after the name of Mr Papandreou’s mother. Vasoulla was an active member in the committee, attending meetings and contributing to the discussions. On one such meeting, Vasoulla asked for a donation to the Northern Epirus Appeal. Her care for individual and social welfare was evident and deep. We unanimously agreed a humble donation. Our budget was not much. Our income came from holding an annual dinner-dance before Lent to complement the main committee’s party held Christmas time. In 1998, however, we combined the two evenings in one dinner-dance a year. St Katerina’s other income came from Bring and Buy coffee mornings which, in many cases, doubled as committee meetings. We took turns in opening our homes for these gatherings. Vasoulla attended and contributed generously to these coffee mornings and hosted us in her lovely house. It was during this meeting in 1994 that the committee decided to prepare an album for our church where pictures of activities and life at the church are recorded annually. As a member of the committee, Vasoulla never missed her turn preparing the prosphora and the sandwiches for after the service.
Vasoulla’s love for the community and care for individuals shone through. She was a perceptive and warm-hearted peace maker, regularly helping to bring people together. Vasoulla always backed any attempt to bring the community together. She supported the suggestion in 1993 of hosting a series of lectures at church on Christian topics. The 4 lectures held were in the evenings and were very well attended. Professor Fuad I Khuri (my late husband) started the lectures on Christianity in the Islamic Middle East, Dr Sotirios Mousalimas spoke on Orthodoxy in Catholic Europe, Mr Nicholas Gozzard spoke on Orthodoxy in Protestant USA, and we had planned a talk on Christianity in the Far East. Elias and Vasoulla actively helped to organise, promote, and create a good atmosphere at all the lectures.
In the minutes of a meeting in 1995, Elias and Vasoulla were thanked for organising the main committee’s Dinner-Dance held at the Dolce Vita venue. The generous donations, including the amazing gifts for the raffle, resulted in a record sum for the church.
That year, Vasoulla lost her dad. It hit her hard, she resigned from the committee in a beautiful letter in which she expressed that it was a difficult decision to take. She also thanked everyone “for their support and kindness during this hard period”. She ended her letter writing: “Once again thank you all, for the time we had worked together, as members of the committee.” These words perfectly reflect how she saw her role in the committee “worked together.” What a wonderful example of a true Christian working in harmony, in concert as one body in the church.
Vasoulla’s involvement with our community did not stop with her resignation. She continued to play her part with everything we were doing. She was a great help when in 1997 our church, headed then by Mrs Panorea Ziffo, hosted his Eminence Bishop Kallistos to give a talk on “the Orthodox Church in Great Britain Past, Present and Future” to mark the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. Dignitaries from Reading were invited, and his Eminence Archbishop Gregorios welcomed the guests. St Katerina prepared food for the event, and everyone including Vasoulla brought something for the table. We should consider doing something like this again, in her honour.
Vasoulla will always be remembered for her gentleness, composure, elegance, divine smile, and loving heart. She was an exemplary Christian for us all. We shall remember her on St Elias’s day bringing the five loaves of bread for the occasion. We shall remember her always in our prayers. She will be dearly missed and never forgotten. May she rest in peace and may her memory be eternal.
Mrs. Sonia Khuri
Since we joined Prophet Elias in 1994, we noticed Vassoula and Elias for their constant presence in our church and we felt that both have been invaluable for our Community. Elias with his amazing knowledge of all things liturgical and his chanting and reading the Apostle. Vassoula for standing out among the congregation; an elegant, sweet, discreet, gentle, beautiful lady with deep faith and a warm smile for all.
In July 2019 Vassoula and Elias joined a group of us who with Fr Asterios visited Constantinople. I shall never forget Vasoulla’s face lighting up in reverence upon entering the magnificent Saint Sophia. I could not resist taking a photo of her expressive face combining wonder and happiness with sadness. I shall always treasure this photo. She was equally delighted when we visited other ancient religious places. She seemed to absorb with intensity and relish the history of all those sacred Orthodox monuments.
We shall miss Vasoulla terribly. We know, however, that she is in a happy place looking from above over her beloved family at home and at church.
May her memory be eternal.
Fotini and Nicholas Vergottis